The one boycott we should all get behind – opportunistic and racist politicians

BOYCOTTS tend to work and that’s an undeniable fact. One example is the Anti-Apartheid Movement against South Africa’s’ racist policies that favour whites over blacks.

With global trade sanctions and restrictions on a host of socio-economic activities – such as being barred from international sporting events – the racist regime buckled. Apartheid officially ended in South Africa in 1994, thanks in no small part to the concerted global boycott movement.

In Malaysia, “boycott” has become a buzzword of late. The latest “fad” started with calls to boycott establishments with Israeli links, following the Zionist regime’s s attacks against the Palestinians in Gaza starting late last year.

As a result, many well-known establishments and brands were boycotted. These included McDonald’s, Starbucks, KFC, Burger King, Puma and Airbnb, to name a few.

The snub has had an effect on the bottom lines of some of these companies. Berjaya Food Bhd which runs the Starbucks franchise in Malaysia posted a net loss of RM42.6 mil in its 2Q FY6/2024 ended Dec 31, 2023 against a net profit of RM35.5 mil a year ago.

Tycoon Tan Sri Vincent Tan Chee Yioun who has a stake in Berjaya Food even appealed for the boycott to end via a rare statement to the Malaysian media from Okinawa, Japan. A prolonged boycott would only hurt its Malaysian staff, about 80%-85% of whom are Muslims, he added.

Last week, when one KK Super Mart store was found to have sold a sock bearing “Allah”, UMNO Youth chief Dr Muhamad Akmal Saleh immediately called for a boycott of the chain which has almost 900 branches nationwide.

Fearing for the worst, the top management of the outlet immediately issued a public apology for the oversight but this did not lead to Dr Akmal calling off the boycott. In fact, he threatened to intensify it unless all 881 KK Mart outlets put up banners outside their premises apologising for the religious slur.

Dr Akmal Saleh

Time to retaliate

Based on past record, Dr Akmal probably knows that the power of the masses work and would hit where it matters most – the companies’ bottom line.

That being the case, perhaps it is time Malaysians harness the power of mass movement – like boycotts – on something equally if not more sinister that is the scourge of society, notably opportunistic leaders who prey on racial-religious sentiments.

Of late, demagogues have been plying their trade by sowing discord and inciting hatred at the expense of long-term national unity, with heightened intensity. Whether it’s on the elevation of bak kut teh as a national heritage food or the closure of school canteens during Ramadan, they jump on sensitive issues like a hungry lion pounces on a weak deer.

And the only reason why they could do so is because the people elevate them to the position of power – whether through electoral means or our collective attention. But if we as a nation boycott such leaders by not voting for them in the next general election and by giving their divisive ideas not an iota of attention, they will eventually be disempowered.

It’s time we as a nation turn away from these agent provocateurs and merchants of discord. This is one boycott which all Malaysians should stand behind swiftly and with a conviction that the fate of the nation literally depends on it – because in many ways it does. – March 19, 2024

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